If you’ve recently brought home a Blue Heeler puppy, you may notice they love a good bite, whether it be on you, other people, or items around the house. It’s something that you are going to want to nip in the bud, no pun intended. But what are the best ways to train them to stop biting? Is it normal for these puppies to bite so much? How long can you expect the process to take if you can train them to stop? Well, here are answers to all of these questions and more.
So, how can you train a Blue Heeler puppy not to bite? You can’t stop a Blue Heeler puppy from biting entirely, but you can help him control it through commands, replacement behaviors and redirection techniques. Puppy training classes can also help him learn how to behave well around other people and dogs.
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How To Train A Blue Heeler Puppy Not To Bite
It usually requires several of the following ideas to stop a Blue Heeler puppy from biting: puppy classes, gentle play, impulse control, and mouthing gently. Other options are training your puppy in replacement behaviors and teaching him herding games.
Encourage Gentle Play
It’s a good idea not to encourage rough play with your pup, however much they might enjoy it.
If a puppy gets too excited, controlling its natural impulses to nip and bite becomes more difficult.
If you have young children, you may wish to let them run around outside without the puppy at first because children tend to scream and run, which can trigger your Blue Heeler’s herding instincts (chasing and nipping).
Teach your children how to play gently with your puppy when it is calm so that they learn how to interact safely with each other.
Teach Your Puppy Impulse Control
You can teach your puppy impulse control while reinforcing calm behaviors. For example:
- Ask your puppy to sit before you toss a ball, pet him, put the leash on, etc.
- Have your pup wait for your command before eating. Get him into a sit, ask him to stay, and then put the food bowl down. Have him wait for a second or two before giving him a command that tells him he can eat
- Teach your pup to walk politely on the leash (puppy classes will help with this, see above)
- Use lots of games to stimulate your pup’s brain as well as his body (like Treibball, see below)
Note: When working with your puppy, whether it’s learning games, walking, or other forms of interaction, remember your puppy’s age and limitations. Younger pups shouldn’t be doing strenuous exercise (such as repetitive jumping, climbing stairs, long runs, extensive hikes, etc.) until their growth plates have closed. Ask your vet when your puppy is ready for these activities to avoid putting him at risk for health problems in later life (like arthritis).
Make sure your puppy is getting enough sleep, too.
Puppies are known for playing till they drop, and nipping can sometimes come from a tired and cranky pup.
Help your puppy to rest by providing a safe place such as a crate or behind a child gate in a quiet place, perhaps with a safe chew toy.
Teach Your Blue Heeler To Mouth Gently
If your puppy already has some level of bite inhibition, you can try the following exercise:
- Put a treat or a piece of kibble in your hand (perhaps wearing gloves) between your middle finger and thumb, letting it protrude a little.
- Insert the treat or kibble in your puppy’s mouth while keeping hold of it.
- If your puppy uses his teeth roughly, don’t let go of the treat. Speak to him calmly and wait for him to nibble softly.
- Once he mouths your hand softly, praise him and let go of the treat.
- Repeat several times, adding the verbal cue “gentle” when inserting the treat in his mouth.
Note: Always do this at quiet times when your puppy is calm, and never move quickly.
Try Teaching Your Pup Replacement Behaviors
Replacement behaviors are a way to get your puppy to behave in a way that’s incompatible with biting. Here’s how to do it:
- Have a treat bag on you at all times during the day – use kibble if you are concerned about excess calories or digestive problems.
- Ask your puppy to target a long stick (or your hands), and when he does this, toss a kibble across the room for him to chase while you praise him. The idea is your puppy touches your hands (or the stick) with his nose without biting.
- You can also reward your puppy by tossing a piece of kibble in the opposite direction as you walk away when your pup either sits on command, walks nicely next to you, looks into your eyes, etc.
While your puppy is learning these behaviors, you may want to help things along with:
- An interactive game (a toy attached to a string, a game of tug-of-war, etc.)
- A food dispensing toy
Keep the above items close by (ideally in a pocket) so they’re always ready at a moment’s notice.
Use Your Pup’s Herding Instincts for Games
Blue Heelers love herding, and you can make the most of this by playing herding games with them, like Treibball.
Treibball requires your dog to “herd” large inflatable balls into a net (as if he’s playing soccer).
To train your puppy in Treibball:
- Get your puppy to hand target (using a clicker)
- Once he can hand target, teach him to target a sticky note on an open cabinet door
- Next, teach him to target the door hard enough to close it
- Then put a sticky note on a large ball and get your pup to push the ball with his nose, starting with him pushing the ball a short distance and then getting him to push it further and further away (perhaps toward you if you stand by the net)
- Once your pup gets the idea, you can remove the sticky note and he’ll love “herding” the balls into the net, particularly if you are there with him
Get Your Pup To Puppy Classes
Puppy classes are a highly effective way to teach your puppy good behavior in a safe environment with a professional on hand.
Your puppy will love the classes as they’ll get to socialize with other puppies – and socialization is key to helping improve any pup’s behavior.
Studies have shown that puppies who attend classes are often easier to train.
Your puppy will benefit from mixing with other puppies and meeting different types of people, too.
Puppies need to meet lots of different types of people within their first month in their new homes to help them acclimate and acquire confidence, including:
- People of different heights, ethnic backgrounds, and ages.
- People with and without canes, hats, glasses, umbrellas, etc.
- People in wheelchairs or using walkers.
- People with and without facial hair.
When looking for puppy classes, find classes that cover more than common commands like “down” and “sit.” Here’s what else to look for:
- Make sure the classes allow the puppies to play with each other (with supervised and controlled interactions).
- Check the classes cover gradual exposure to new noises, sights, sounds, smells, and exchanging items (this last one is crucial to prevent resource guarding, which often leads to aggressive behavior).
- Ensure the classes include restraint and handling exercises.
- Check that proof of vaccinations is required.
- Make sure positive methods are used and that all puppies are safe (e.g., shy or smaller puppies don’t get bullied by more active puppies).
- Ask the instructor if you can visit a class first (the good classes will let you do this)
- Check online reviews or ask people you know (you can also check with a vet you trust, too).
Why Do Blue Heeler Puppies Bite?
Blue Heelers tend to bite more than other dogs because of their long history as herding dogs and their high level of intelligence. Even strategies like walking away, which work well with other breeds, don’t always yield results with Blue Heelers. You’ll have to use redirection instead.
Blue Heelers Were Bred To Herd
Because Blue Heelers have a long history as herding dogs, their instinct is to nip other animals to keep them in line.
They are also very determined and they like to control their environment (including other animals and people!)
Because of their desire to control others, these puppies need socialization even more than most to avoid later aggressive behaviors.
Blue Heelers Are Smart
Blue Heelers are clever dogs who quickly learn chains of events – for example, if your puppy bites you, stops and then gets a treat, your pup might be tempted to continue to bite once in order to get the treat.
These intelligent dogs will seek lots of interaction with their people, and they will get it any way they can.
Walking Away or Yelping Sometimes Doesn’t Work
When puppies nip their littermates, sometimes a sibling will yelp as if to say, “ouch!” The sibling might move away from the puppy, teaching them that if they bite too hard, they lose their playmate.
Because Blue Heelers are spurred into action by movement, it doesn’t always work if you move away when they nip you.
In fact, movement tends to trigger more nipping in this breed, so you may find yourself becoming a human-sized tug toy!
If you yelp at your puppy, he may interpret that sound as one of a hurt animal, which can excite him further.
It’s as if you’ve become a fun squeaky toy. You may find your pup chases you to latch onto you.
Even if you leave the room, your puppy might feel the momentary attention and stimulation was worth it.
These puppies will need different dissuasion methods, such as replacement behaviors (see above).
Redirecting Your Pup to Toys Sometimes Doesn’t Work
If you have been redirecting your puppy to a toy or treats if he nips, this might cause him to return to nipping once he’s played with the toy or eaten the treats.
If the toy is one your puppy has seen before, he might be bored with it – or perhaps the toy lacks what he most wants: continuous and unpredictable movement (like prey).
Once he’s bored, he may go back to nipping to get a higher level of reward: you moving away or making sounds.
To combat this problem, make sure the toy you offer provides him with more stimulation. Some ideas are:
- Any toy that moves unpredictably
- Any toy that offers some kind of engagement, ideally with reinforcement (like a food-dispensing toy that requires something from your puppy first)
- A toy that makes him think, such as a Buster Cube, a Kong Wobbler, or a previously stuffed IQ treat ball
Always keep these toys on hand while training your Blue Heeler not to bite so that you can redirect your puppy immediately.
Over time your puppy will develop positive associations with these toys.
He’ll eventually learn that nipping people becomes boring (especially if you always freeze and redirect him to these toys).
When To Seek Help
If any of the following apply to your circumstances, it’s essential to seek help from a professional dog behaviorist for safety:
- Your Blue Heeler puppy is biting hard enough to break your skin
- You notice signs of aggressive behavior (see above)
- You have small children in your home
Is It Normal For Blue Heeler Puppies To Bite?
It’s normal for Blue Heelers to bite to some extent, especially given this breed’s characteristics (see above). By eight weeks of age, though, they should have learned to limit their nipping somewhat, thanks to their littermates and mother.
In the litter, your pup’s littermates will yelp and move away when your puppy bites too hard, which will teach him to use his mouth more gently if he wants to keep playing.
Once your puppy reaches your home, it’s normal for your pup to need further training, as our skin is much softer than another puppy’s fur.
Some nipping is normal when your puppy is aroused, and in their new home, puppies are exposed to all kinds of new situations and sensations.
They can often feel so excited by their new world that they are in an almost constant state of arousal, with more nipping as a result.
You’ll need to train your Blue Heeler in good habits right from the beginning before the nipping becomes problematic.
Because of this breed’s intelligence and herding instincts, it’s completely normal to expect some nipping, which fortunately can be tempered with the methods mentioned earlier.
As long as your puppy learns that pleasure can be had from other activities, the nipping or biting should eventually resolve itself.
How Long Does It Take to Train a Blue Heeler Puppy to Stop Biting?
Your Blue Heeler puppy will never stop biting altogether, as this is part of their breed’s background and instincts. However, you can manage this behavior with training and redirecting. The amount of time this will take depends very much on your individual circumstances and your puppy’s personality. Some dogs are more stubborn or determined than others. Shyer puppies will tend to learn a bit faster, but all puppies can learn new habits with time and patience.
Blue Heelers were bred to herd cattle, so biting is a natural component of their job and lifestyle.
If they had to bite cattle to keep them in line, they would do so.
If one herd member had their own ideas, a Blue Heeler would outthink them and do what it took to get the job done.
Your Blue Heeler is an independent and thinking breed, which means you’ll need to show your pup how not biting can lead to other satisfying activities and feelings.
Apart from your pup’s characteristics as a Blue Heeler, all puppies will nip and bite more while their teeth are developing.
They chew to relieve pressure on their gums.
Teething begins at around 3 weeks old, with the most painful part of the process usually between 12 to 16 weeks old (when they need safe things to chew on).
Your pup should have all of his adult teeth by about 6 months old, at which point the worst of the teething process will have passed.
You can further help your Blue Heeler puppy to manage his desire to bite by:
- Avoiding punishments like yelling or other harsh treatment, which can send the wrong message and make problems worse
- Using positive methods for training (see above), with lots of socialization
- Giving your puppy an outlet for their natural desire to herd and work – these dogs love having jobs to do!
Blue Heeler puppies love to nip and bite.
Unfortunately, this is just part of their natural instincts.
That being said, it’s not something that you necessarily should not try to address.
You should be able to at least reduce it, and be equipped with strategies to stop your puppy in the moment.
And this is the time to do it, while they are still young and learning!
Other Blue Heeler guides you may want to read:
- Are Blue Heelers Aggressive?
- When Do Blue Heelers Calm Down?
- How Big Do Blue Heelers Get?
- Do Blue Heelers Like To Cuddle?
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.